If a player excels on the professional tennis tour long enough, eventually they will have big matches against younger opponents who once idolized them. Such is the case with the top half of the women’s singles draw at Roland Garros 2014 as Maria Sharapova will be challenged for a place in the final by Eugenie Bouchard. Each player won their quarterfinal match in comeback fashion to reserve a spot in the semis. In her previous match against Samantha Stosur in the fourth round, Sharapova came back from 3-6 3-4 down to win the last 9 games of the match, winning 3-6 6-4 6-0. Against Garbine Muguruza in the quarters, Masha again found herself in early distress as Garbine sprinted to 4-0 lead in the first set, going on to capture the set and lead Masha in the second set. But once again, Sharapova showed why she is a career Grand Slam winner and one of the most mentally tough players on tour, rallying from 1-6 4-5 behind to take 9 of the final 10 games to win going away in the third, 1-6 7-5 6-1. Despite the loss, I hope Muguruza goes away with confidence derived from beating Serena Williams and having Maria Sharapova on the ropes. Garbine is a big hitter and great thinker on court. She just had some shaky play on big points at the end of the second set and beginning of the third set. Once Masha was out with the lead, it was over. Muguruza has a compact swing but generates tremendous pace. That’s a great combination that might one day win her a Major or two (particularly Wimbledon, which should reward her compact swing/tremendous pace combination). On this day however, it was the Russian superstar with 31 WTA titles that showed it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.
Although Eugenie Bouchard grew up inspired by Sharapova, she makes no bones about it. They are not friends and while she respects Masha, Bouchard is coming to battle for the win. The young Canadian almost didn’t get to the semis. She showed true grit in fighting back twice in her match against Carla Suarez Navarro. Genie was down 2-5 in the first set with Carla serving for the set. Bouchard was able to turn the tables and win 4 straight games for 6-5, finally winning the first set in a tie break, 7-6 (4). Suarez Navarro was undeterred, bouncing back immediately to run through Genie in the second set 6-2. It had the feeling of a match where the lower ranked player (in this case, Bouchard) would win a tight first set and then get run off the court in the next two. Certainly, when Bouchard again fell behind 1-4 in the final set, it appeared Genie’s Roland Garros campaign was winding to its end. But Carla couldn’t hold it together, while Bouchard charged through 6 of the next 7 games to take the match, 7-6 (4) 2-6 7-5. This makes back to back Major semifinals for Eugenie. She’ll have her hands full trying to get through Sharapova, who holds a 2-0 head to head advantage. They played last year at Roland Garros in the second round, with Masha winning, 6-2 6-4. This is a better Eugenie Bouchard, however. We’ll see if that will be enough.
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7 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 1-6 7-5 6-1 vs Garbine Muguruza)
18 EUGENIE BOUCHARD (won 7-6 (4) 2-6 7-5 vs 14 Carla Suarez Navarro)